Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Cycling in London: it's about time to do something!

With the congestion charge now at £8, Transport for London clearly signalled that only rich people can afford commuting by car to London. Shame if you happen to be working in a profession with night shifts, like for instance hospital nurses... (the charge operates from 0700 till 1830).

So, if you want to avoid both this new hidden tax and overcrowded and unreliable AND expensive public transport, cycling to work seems a good idea. Other options include buying a minibus (or a Land Rover Defender LWB) or an eletric car (I wonder what Sir Clive Sinclair has to say about this?).

The snag is that a cycling culture doesn't seem to be part of the British personality: "proficiency" levels are low and the network is terrible:

  • The network is small and presents a lot of discontinuities (the paths stops and starts again after each bus stop, etc...)
  • The segregation with motor vehicules and pedestrians is either poor (cycling path being just a terracotta-coloured path onto the street with no delimiters) or non-existent (shared tow paths with pedestrians for instance)
  • Road surface is often bumpy and abrasive/high-friction (meaning increased effort from the biker and more damage in case of fall), quite often the cycle path is on the pavement and snakes around lamp posts and other obstacles. I'd like to speak to some borough planning officers...
  • The cycle paths rarely have their own traffic lights for junctions, roundabouts are often just ignored
  • Schools do not have secure bike sheds (surely cycling to school reduces congestion and helps kids excercising, but for instance at Darrell, our local school, there's no option for leaving bikes while kids are in class).
  • Train stations do not either have secure locations where to store bikes, and taking bikes onto trains is restricted and badly signed (we came across one idiotic train SouthWest Trains conductor from Windsor to Richmond that forced us to move up the train into the so-called bike carriage where there was no space as two families with buggies were there). In contrast, every major train station in The Netherlands offers secure storage, bike rental and even a repair shop.
  • Little use is made of the vast expanse of green real estate that the Royal Parks offer us: again, paths are shared and the parks are not linked into a network.
  • There are little contraflows

Links:

Monday, December 12, 2005

Supermarkets 2: labeling

Haven't you noticed how sometimes supermarkets try to con you with labeling?

The other day I was in Tesco and they were selling goldens (apples) either by the bag (of 10) or by kg. Fruits and Vegetables aren't the only case, but the most common offender. Sainsbury does the same (and their fish counter is worse).

By doing this, they prevent consumers to compare, usually between their own brands and cheaper bulk products. This is not only dishonest but also contradicts, at least the intent of, the EU DIRECTIVE 98/6/EC OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL
of 16 February 1998 on consumer protection in the indication of the prices of products offered to consumers
(wordy?).

I wrote to both Tesco and Sainsbury (after complaining many times verbally about fist at Sainsbury and filling in forms about labeling at Tesco's). Let's see...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Campaing for suppressing level crossings

I was this morning at North Sheen's level crossing, waiting 12 minutes behind the barrier (missed my train as the entry from the station is on the other side) and pondering about the dangers of the level crossing: this week-end two 14-year-old girls got killed in Elsenham, Essex as they crossed to catch their train.

(see coverage on BBC and other sources)

And while I was raging against this level crossing, a schoolboy (probably going to Christ's School) jumped the barrier and crossed the tracks. He probably did not read the news...

Bob Crow from the RMTU (not my usual source but...) is quoted here saying that the cost of an underpass or a bridge is around £1m. Are two girls' lives not worth it?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Susan Kramer's progress on North Sheen Station footbridge

Susan Kramer's press officer finally came back to me with the statement below following my previous post (Time to remind Susan Kramer about the North Sheen Station footbridge).

Thank you for your recent email to Susan Kramer MP, regarding the above issue. During the last few months, Susan has been trying to arrange a meeting with senior representatives from Network Rail in order to discuss this issue.
I am happy to report that Susan has now had two separate such meetings with representatives from Network Rail, who have advised her that they have now launched a consultation as part of their South West London Route Utilisation Strategy - during which this issue will be given due consideration.
However, in an effort to make sure that this issue is given the level of consideration that it deserves, Susan has now written to the Chief Executive of Network Rail, Mr. John Armitt, to raise this matter directly with him.
Additionally, we soon hope to launch a petition to Network Rail, calling upon the company to provide proper footbridge access to North Sheen Station as part of the changes implemented in their South West London Utilisation Strategy mentioned above.

She deserves credit for raising the issue but how long is it going to take?
Do we need a tragic accident at North Sheen before anything changes?

Tags: , , , , ,

Monday, November 28, 2005

Time to remind Susan Kramer about the North Sheen Station footbridge

One of Susan Kramer's (LibDem) electoral pledge was to re-build the South footbridge at North Sheen station. Six month later and nothing has changed, the station is still served by one footbridge accessible from the North side of the level-crossing. This means one cannot reach the platform if the barriers are down which can be for up to over 12 mn with the new timetables.

So what's new? The Richmond and Twickenham Times has printed this article New call for rail bridge at Sheen, probably after a LibDem press release, but how long is this going to take for the works to start?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

After mad cow: Iraq anthrax traced back to British cow!

Yet another export produce from good old English farming industry: Anthrax found in Iraq is traced back to a British cow.
We are continuously amazed by British Agricultural exports!

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1726745,00.html
August 09, 2005 Saddam's germ war plot is traced back to one Oxford cowBy Dominic Kennedy

Friday, July 29, 2005

I dreamt about doing this!!!!

Hats off to Hacan for doing something I wanted to see for a long time:

BA boss gets early morning plane blasts (Richmond & Twickenham Times, 22/07/05)
THE boss of British Airways was woken up by blasting aircraft noise at 5am at his quiet Berkshire village home this week. The protesters rigged up a sound system outside the chief executives home and blasted out aircraft noise for 15 minutes. "The majority of night flights using Heathrow are operated by British Airways or one of its subsidiary companies. And BA is amongst the strongest supporters of night flights." As you have guessed, we live under the flight path, just like another MILLION of people in London (one of the few cities in London where flight paths go OVER down-town). This means we can get 747's cargos at 3 am or 4am, and then early morning traffic from 6 am. We have experienced it: it really affects kids sleeping patterns....

Monday, July 18, 2005

Cycling in London: it's about time to do something!

With the congestion charge now at £8, Transport for London clearly signalled that only rich people can afford commuting by car to London. Shame if you happen to be working in a profession with night shifts, like for instance hospital nurses... (the charge operates from 0700 till 1830).

So, if you want to avoid both this new hidden tax and overcrowded and unreliable AND expensive public transport, cycling to work seems a good idea. Other options include buying a minibus (or a Land Rover Defender LWB) or an eletric car (I wonder what Sir Clive Sinclair has to say about this?).

The snag is that a cycling culture doesn't seem to be part of the British personality: "proficiency" levels are low and the network is terrible:

  • The network is small and presents a lot of discontinuities (the paths stops and starts again after each bus stop, etc...)
  • The segregation with motor vehicules and pedestrians is either poor (cycling path being just a terracotta-coloured path onto the street with no delimiters) or non-existent (shared tow paths with pedestrians for instance)
  • Road surface is often bumpy and abrasive/high-friction (meaning increased effort from the biker and more damage in case of fall), quite often the cycle path is on the pavement and snakes around lamp posts and other obstacles. I'd like to speak to some borough planning officers...
  • The cycle paths rarely have their own traffic lights for junctions, roundabouts are often just ignored
  • Schools do not have secure bike sheds (surely cycling to school reduces congestion and helps kids excercising, but for instance at Darrell, our local school, there's no option for leaving bikes while kids are in class).
  • Train stations do not either have secure locations where to store bikes, and taking bikes onto trains is restricted and badly signed (we came across one idiotic train SouthWest Trains conductor from Windsor to Richmond that forced us to move up the train into the so-called bike carriage where there was no space as two families with buggies were there). In contrast, every major train station in The Netherlands offers secure storage, bike rental and even a repair shop.
  • Little use is made of the vast expanse of green real estate that the Royal Parks offer us: again, paths are shared and the parks are not linked into a network.
  • There are little contraflows

Links:

Friday, July 15, 2005

Speed cameras: all for the money, litte for safety

Here are a few important facts about speed cameras:

  1. Accidents on the motorways account for less than 10% of the total. So why diverting resources to putting speed cameras on motorways, like in France? One could say it's idiotic, but in fact speed cameras have little to do with safety, in particular on motorways. They can actually cause accidents (French news article, Le Nouvel Obs, 18/07/05, explaining that before speed cameras were installed on the A12 between Montigny-le-Bretonneux et Rocquencourt, 30 accidents were registered and 60 after!!!)
  2. In fact, Less than 4% of accidents are caused by exceeding the speed limit
  3. Again according to Speedcameras.org.uk, £120 million was generated in speeding fines in 2003. That's in the IUK. In France, they plan no less than EUR 375 revenue in 2006!!!

STOP THE HYPOCRISY!

Links:

www.radars-auto.com

www.speedcameras.org

Thursday, July 14, 2005

International dates and times

It's sometimes challenging to work internationally, especially given we all use different paper sizes: letter, A4, etc...

We haven't yet found a solution for paper size, but since European countries and most of the commonwealth use the DIN (A4, A3, etc...) we're suggesting that the de facto standard is the one use by over 490m people vs. 290m in the USA...

On the times, here's a useful reference for people working with international colleagues: the International standard date and time notation

This page suggests to use the ISO 8601 (International Standards Organisaion) formats:

* for the dates YYYY-MM-DD
* and for tims hh:mm

The ISO 24h time format is commonly accepted. See this interesting note from the above referenced page:

A remark for readers from the U.S.:

The 24h time notation specified here has already been the de-facto standard all over the world in written language for decades. The only exception are a few English speaking countries, where still notations with hours between 1 and 12 and additions like “a.m.” and “p.m.” are in wide use. The common 24h international standard notation is widely used now even in England (e.g. at airports, cinemas, bus/train timetables, etc.). Most other languages do not even have abbreviations like “a.m.” and “p.m.” and the 12h notation is certainly hardly ever used on Continental Europe to write or display a time. Even in the U.S., the military and computer programmers have been using the 24h notation for a long time.

The old English 12h notation has many disadvantages like:

* It is longer than the normal 24h notation.
* It takes somewhat more time for humans to compare two times in 12h notation.
* It is not clear, how 00:00, 12:00 and 24:00 are represented. Even encyclopedias and style manuals contain contradicting descriptions and a common quick fix seems to be to avoid “12:00 a.m./p.m.” altogether and write “noon”, “midnight”, or “12:01 a.m./p.m.” instead, although the word “midnight” still does not distinguish between 00:00 and 24:00 (midnight at the start or end of a given day).
* It makes people often believe that the next day starts at the overflow from “12:59 a.m.” to “1:00 a.m.”, which is a common problem not only when people try to program the timer of VCRs shortly after midnight.
* It is not easily comparable with a string compare operation.
* It is not immediately clear for the unaware, whether the time between “12:00 a.m./p.m.” and “1:00 a.m./p.m.” starts at 00:00 or at 12:00, i.e. the English 12h notation is more difficult to understand.

Please consider the 12h time to be a relic from the dark ages when Roman numerals were used, the number zero had not yet been invented and analog clocks were the only known form of displaying a time. Please avoid using it today, especially in technical applications! Even in the U.S., the widely respected Chicago Manual of Style now recommends using the international standard time notation in publications.



Most of the world still use now an adapted version of the old German date format, as follows:

* DD/MM/YY or DD/MM/YYYY

(In any case, the US format is both ambiguous and illogical...)

Thursday, June 30, 2005

No beer? No lunch, says Belgian parliamentarian (Reuters)

A lunch meeting between a leading parliamentarian in Belgium and counterparts from Iran has been cancelled because the beer-loving Belgian could not stomach a ban on alcohol.

Never mind then!

http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=oddlyEnoughNews&storyID=2005-06-30T110907Z_01_KWA040141_RTRIDST_0_OUKOE-BELGIUM-IRAN-ALCOHOL.XML

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Supermarkets 1: parking spaces

In prevision of my dear wife going back to work, having sorted the childcare, I went to the supermarket this morning to do the weekly shopping chore. Looks like I need to be trained again to pick the right goods :-)

I went to Tesco this time, way cheaper than our local Sainsbury (and at least their fish counter doesn't stink).

But there's something they seem to overdo: parking spaces. There are about 10 for people with children (usually taken by singletons in 4x4's) and 30 for disabled. I don't have anything against it and by all means everything that can be done to make disabled people's life a little easier (including lifts in the London tube and in train stations, an all too rare sight in the UK), but I would ask something:

Is there really 3 times more disabled persons in the UK than families?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

My de.li.cious bookmarks

Social bookmarking is great: check this

http://del.icio.us/lludovic

This allows to pick up new trends quickly through a collaborative filtering process, or the aggregation of what masses of peope read, tag (categories are so passé) and bookmark.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

France says no to EU constitution referendum

At the time I am writing this, it looks almost certain that French electors are voting NON to the EU referendum.

But why?

After all, France (at least its farmers) has always benefited a lot from European funds and other apects. And the constitution has been drafted under the lead of a French politician, Valery Giscard d'Estaing (he was president of the republic in the late 70ies) to fix the broken Nice treaty (a half botched compromise adopted at the end of the French rotating EU presidency in 2001).

It instigate a more democratic functionning of the European Commission and clearer decision mechanisms, much needed to deal with the EU expansion -new members can mean gridlock under a qualified majority voting system.

So why say no this time?

It looks as there are several non's:

  • Some left wing intellectuals like Laurent Fabius think the referefdum should be renegotiated
  • More to the left (the ex. trotskysts) and the extreme right both think the constitution is too liberal and should be ditched
  • But most electors just dislike the current president, Jacques Chiract (one of the most notably corrupted EU leaders) and its PM Raffarin. So instead of answering the question, they're telling their dislike of the current leadership. Annoying for the 122 millions of European who have already voted YES.

Check also those blogs if you speak French:

publius.fr : les déraisons de mon non

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Google deletes Europe....

... the Register accuses W (aka Dubya) to erase non-compliant nations. In fact, in Google's world, there's only US and UK, nothing else from Europe!

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/04/29/google_bush_map/

Was Spain on Google's lights before they finally saw the light?

PS: check this site www.democracynow.org/

Friday, April 22, 2005

"Pentecôte"

The French government is probably one of the most prolific when it comes to creating new taxes. The last trick from those ENA boffins is to abolish a bank holiday (they picked a Catholic celebration called "lundi de Pentecôte" (aka Withmonday in English), make employees work for free (guess what, unions are not happy and will call strikes for a change) and allocate the taxes for that day to a fund aimed at providing benefits to poor pensioners. This is in fact a knee-jerk reaction to the 2003 "canicule", when 11.400 people, most of them pensioner were killed in a heat wave that scorched Europe.

They just have won the the gold medal for stealth tax creativity!

The greatest irony, is that in 2000 the socialist governement abolished the car tax that was initially first levied in 1956 tomeant to fund... the pensions!

Check also this link on the subject: libres.org

TGIF: office-humour.com

Fridays.....

A link for my cousin Sté :

One for my folks: http://www.office-humour.co.uk/item.cfm?itm=2932

This one for the Brits: http://www.office-humour.co.uk/item.cfm?itm=2939

And lastly, if anyone on the planet still thought W had some form of intelligence: http://www.office-humour.com/content/files/mov/sovereignty.mov

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Spin Bunny

Can you gag a blog? Well, some have tried, with no luck thankfully!

Great attitude Spin Bunny!

Dan Gillmor on Grassroots Journalism, Etc.

Great blog by Dan Gilmour, a SanFran based journo, aimed at "encourag[ing] and enabl[ing] more citizen-based media".

  • Links to a 90% crud blog post on how Apple screws its customers by removing features from iTunes. Don't you hate that too?
  • Good collection of links and a detailed wrap-up on Apple vs. ThinkSecrets, or how BigCorpsInc are making their best to dismantle what's left of the First Ammendment. On that subject, this c|net article is not bad, but just stops short of a conclusion. Mine is that most of the news we read is pre-digested, planted or even created by the big corporations and governements.
  • And a great "draft" on the "End of Objectivity".

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Randy Register

Hey, welcome to my blog!

Now you thought enlargement spams were gross, wait till you read the punchline from that Register paper....